MTSU media students celebrate national, regional, ...

MTSU media students celebrate national, regional, state awards for top reporting [+VIDEOS]

MTSU media students are celebrating a successful spring semester with national, state and regional honors for their multimedia reporting, including an astounding 28 awards that comprise a national Society of Professional Journalists’ college award and 14 first-place wins and three Best of Shows in the Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors College Contest.

The new honors also include two first-place and four finalist wins in the SPJ Region 12 Mark of Excellence Awards.

School of Journalism logoTwelve current, newly graduated and former School of Journalism and Strategic Media students earned recognition for their 2019 writing, reporting, radio, video and online work, including Best of Show honors in radio and in TV.

Fall 2019 graduate Tyler Lamb earned multiple honors for his feature “Walk In My Shoes: The Brad Anderson Story,” including the SPJ national Mark of Excellence Award for online/digital sports videography.

New spring grad Megan Cole added six statewide first-place and two Best of Show awards to her resume, along with regional finalist wins.

Cole won TAPBME’s Best of Show in Television and the first-place TV newscast award with fellow May alumnus JR Smith and Joseph Choi, a fall 2019 MTSU grad, for a 20-minute special report, “Never Forgotten: The 75th Anniversary of D-Day.”

The package earned a total of four awards, including first place in online specialized/topic reporting and first-place online multimedia journalists for Cole, Smith and new May graduate Sabrina Washington.

MTSU journalism professor Christine Eschenfelder’s class traveled to Europe last year to retrace the steps of Allied soldiers who landed at Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, to begin liberating Western Europe.

Associated Press logoThe students interviewed American and British World War II veterans, active-duty and retired military members during their study-abroad class, plus local youngsters back at home, for the story.

“Wow. This is a multimedia masterpiece,” the TAPBME judges said. “Nice use of file footage and tracking down members of [the] greatest generation.”

The multi-award-winning program is available to watch above.

Cole also received the individual Best of Show in Radio and the first-place radio news and feature prizes for “Nashville Juvenile Crime Task Force” and “Meet This D-Day Veteran,” respectively.

Cole and junior Jonas Saich brought home the top two state TV sports reporting awards with their work. Cole’s story, “MTSU Football to Honor Late Doc Johns During 2019 Season,” took first place, and Saich’s “Zack and Zaevion Dobson” was second.

Cole’s “Aerospace Students and Paper Airplanes Take to the Sky,” received second place in the TV news story category, and another D-Day feature, “75 Years and One Bottle of Sand Later,” earned her a third-place individual finish in the online multimedia journalist category.

The MTSU football and aerospace stories also earned Cole finalist wins in the SPJ Mark of Excellence regional competition’s TV sports reporting and television general news categories, respectively. A third story on a domestic assault also was a finalist in the TV breaking news category.

Cole also was a semifinalist in the TV features division of the 2020 national Hearst Journalism Awards Program.

In addition to his national SPJ award, Lamb received TAPBME’s top videographer and second-place online sports reporting awards for his story on MTSU running back Anderson. The judges commended Lamb’s work for its “variety of shots” and “compelling storytelling.” It’s available to watch below.

Lamb also took first place in the statewide online sports reporting competition for “Donovan Sims: For Each Other,” which the judges called “truly exceptional work. From the way the story is told to those interviewed to the production, everything about this shines.” That story is available below.

Both stories also garnered additional honors for Lamb in the SPJ Region 12 contest. His “Walk in My Shoes” earned the top regional Mark of Excellence award for online/digital sports videography award, which led to his national win, and the Sims story won first place for online sports reporting.

A third story, “Living as the Underdog,” received the regional sports writing finalist honor.

MTSU May grad Brandon Casteel brought home TAPBME’s Best of Show in TV with his University of Mississippi colleague Neely Mullen for their collaboration, “A Developing Delta,” with the Lens Collective Multimedia Workshop at Ole Miss. The story also earned them the state group’s top TV feature story award.

The story, which judges called “a very nice piece that shows the challenges of farming and the strong bond between land and family,” is available below.

Smith won the TAPBME TV news category with a story on “MTSU’s Budget,” which the judges praised for its “lots of information, good pacing, nice editing and a creative standup.” It’s available below.

The state judges also gave Smith a third-place television reporter nod for his story “2018 Blue Wave.”

MTSU junior Brandon Black’s story on actor Jack Millard, “The Art of Defiant Optimism: Using creativity to find hope again,” earned the competition’s first-place feature story award. The story ran in the university’s student newspaper, Sidelines, and is available here.

MTSU junior Zoë Haggard took top honors in the use of sound category for her story “MTSU RAD Classes Teach Self-Defense.” The judges said she created a “great story on a sensitive topic” and applauded her “use of natural sound of the class, hearing the punching and the applause at the end.”

Junior Gracie Martin brought home the Tennessee AP competition’s first-place online feature story award for “Logan’s Hugs,” which judges called a “well-structured story on an emotionally resonant issue.” The story, which was published in Sidelines, is available here.

MTSU seniors took the top two places in the college contest’s radio specialized/topic reporting category, too. Christyn Allen’s “Iowa the Focus of Early 2020 Campaign Activity” won the first-place award and the judges’ praise for “nice delivery and great reporting,” and Anika Boyce brought home second with “Upscale Franklin Opens a Homeless Shelter.”

SPJ’s Region 12 comprises Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Lamb will be saluted in September during SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism event in Washington, D.C., for his nationally recognized project.

For more information about MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media in the College of Media and Entertainment, visit

— Gina E. Fann (